When attending local events we are often asked: Why Binghamton? So many areas of the Southern Tier could benefit from a community owned grocery store. With all of these choices what made us choose Binghamton? I will do my best to address that issue here.
First of all we need to address the issues of living in what is know as a food desert. A food desert is a geographic area where affordable, healthy food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile. Food deserts also exist in rural areas and low-income communities. Some research links them to diet-related health problems in affected populations. Food deserts are sometimes associated with supermarket shortages and food security.
Here is a map showing where Binghamton, NY, rates on this issue. If you type in Binghamton, NY, you will find a circle in the center of that map where between 45 and 65 percent of the people are low income, have no transportation and live at least a half a mile from a grocery store. This is the highest area of need in our community.
Some may say: “Well what is the big deal, just walk to the store!” However, a large percentage of people living in those areas are senior citizens, many have small children, and some are disabled. For many in these groups walking that distance with groceries is simply not a choice.
Others will say, “There are buses, just take a bus.” The cost of riding a bus one way is up to $2.00 . This money is taken out of an already tightly squeezed household budget.
In addition, buses run on set schedules and most bus stops do not have covered waiting areas. For those struggling to understand the problem I challenge you take a bus (just once) to purchase your weekly groceries. The only way to truly understand this is to live it. If you really want to know what people are struggling with try doing this with small children in the snow!
In a car it may take an hour to purchase weekly or bi-monthly groceries. By bus this trip can become a four hour trip, while hauling bags, managing children, and praying the snow or rain will just hold off a little bit longer.
Many Hands Food Co-op is a part of an overall community development program. We are an offspring of BRSC and as such we are working with many other community organizations. Our overall goal is to develop a stronger, more vibrant Binghamton Region.
Our efforts are being focused in Binghamton, NY, because this is the area of greatest need at this time. It is our long term hope to serve as a pilot store, and through our success encourage similar stores throughout the region.
Being a co-op gives us the ability as members to take personal ownership in the growth and development of the communities in which they live. As a community, we chose to Buy Local, Think Local, Be Local!